Chasing Circles

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“What’d you suppose I’d be like if we’d never met?”
Henry looked up, surprised by the question. The blonde across from his didn’t meet his eyes, instead, keeping her gaze on the vibrant red mug she twisted anxiously back and forth in her hands. Her cheeks were flushed from the crisp wind racing down the street – a cherry color that matched her lips perfectly. Her golden curls provided marvelous contrast to the bright blue of the sky behind her and the soft pale of the skin untouched by the elements.
Choking down the remaining crumbs of his utterly unsatisfying croissant, he replied slowly, hesitantly – not quite sure where the conversation would lead. “Well, I’d probably still be the antisocial twerp with his nose pressed too far into a book.”
He tried for a laugh, which she mirrored – all the nervousness and trepidation he felt reflected right back in her fidgety fingers and wobbly smile.
She still hadn’t met his eyes.
They’d been doing this dance for a while now – avoiding the real issue, the feelings, and the complications. Neither wanted to make a move forward; like they were standing on the top of a cliff shrouded in fog – they might be at the edge, they might not be. Neither wanted to ruin what they already had.
Henry sighed, knowing she desired an answer not covered by jokes or rambling excuses, knowing that he would not be able to provide one.
The waitress interrupted their awkward pause, dropping off their check, which Henry promptly picked up. She barely protested, which was odd, because his best friend was fiercely opposed to anyone doing anything for her.
Henry tried to avoid frowning, but when around her, it was hard to conceal his facial expressions (like that one time she spontaneously wore a sundress and he started drooling).
She visibly winced upon seeing his downturned lips. “Sorry,” she apologized. “I’ve just been…off.”
Henry nodded, like that explained everything. Signing the receipt with a flourish, Henry placed the paper and tray on the end of the table and turned back to the blonde, who had pulled out her phone and was tapping at the screen, her brow furrowed.
“Ugh,” she groaned. “Rachel broke the washing machine again. I have to go.” She stood up abruptly, grabbing her bag and sweatshirt.
“Thank you.” She smiled at him genuinely – the first in weeks. Then she took off down the sidewalk, leaving Henry alone at a table with a dry croissant, an empty coffee cup, and a heavy heart.
Mentally cursing himself, Henry slapped his head into his hands before sliding his palms slowly down his face, pathetically curling his lips with the heels. Staring after his best friend’s retreating form, he felt a familiar stab of pain in his chest.
“If only we were brave enough,” he muttered sadly. “Chasing each other in circles – it seems now neither of us will ever find love.”






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